The Kaohsiung District Court yesterday dismissed legal proceedings against a captain of a naval warship accused of negligence resulting in the death of a sailor have been halted because the statute of limitations had run out, while the victim’s family pleaded for justice.
Chen Pi-e (陳碧娥), mother of naval conscript Huang Kuo-chang (黃國章) who allegedly committed suicide more than 20 years ago, said she could not accept the court’s “stay of proceedings,” which effectively meant charges have been dropped against naval captain Feng Yi-cheng (馮逸成), the man in command of the warship and accused of professional negligence in Huang’s death.
“Right now, I feel so powerless. The case has returned back to the original starting point,” Chen said, as she wiped tears from her eyes.
“Please don’t be so cruel to us. This is painful torture for the victim’s family, as the courts’ decisions have hurt us again and again,” Chen said.
Chen said her son’s case was among the most well-known of suspicious deaths or alleged suicides during military service, and was important for society, so she was very disappointed at the outcome.
“Now I feel there is no hope for all the other wrongful death cases in the military. There is no future for prosecution and judicial proceeding on these cases,” she said.
“I ask President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to direct her atttention to these wrongful death cases in the military. This is also the task for transitional justice for the new government,” she said.
Feng, the only person charged in the death of the naval conscript and who was present at the court’s announcement, said: “I respect the court’s decision.”
The navy said that Huang, then a seaman second class, committed suicide in June 1995 by jumping off the Nanyang destroyer in the Taiwan Strait.
However, Chen suspected Huang was murdered, since he had repeatedly complained of physical abuse and undue punishment by older crew members, and because when her son’s body was found off the coast of China, there were signs of external wounds.
Photographs taken by Chinese authorities showed Huang had sustained head wounds, with a nail piercing his skull, and other objects lodged inside his head, according to Chen and investigators who made detailed examination of the pictures.
Navy prosecutors decided not to proceed with the case in 1997, but it was reopened by the Kaohsiung District Prosecutors’ Office in late 2013 after the Executive Yuan established the Military Injustice Petition Committee in response to massive public protests demanding justice for Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), an army conscript who died at an army base in Hsinchu County after being punished with solitary confinement and harsh physical exercise regimes.
Feng was originally charged with murder in Huang’s death, but when Kaohsiung prosecutors reopened the case, they indicted him on charges of professional negligence causing death.
The district court yesterday decided proceeding with the case, saying prosecutors had not presented new evidence for the trial and the statute of limitations on the case had run out.
Critics said the justice system seemed to have come under pressure from the military, and that the process had been impeded at every turn.
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